Jeremy Lin as a Lakers, Rockets and Knicks PG: Evaluating and Comparing His First Month in Each Team - News Update
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Sometime near Thanksgiving Jeremy Lin gathered his thoughts, put pen to paper, and reflected on his first month in Lakerland.
"Even though we don't have a great record right now, our team has been playing better of late," Lin wrote on his official website, Jlin7.com. "Something clicked when we got back to back road wins against two playoff teams and we're starting to see what we're capable of."
Calling the Los Angeles Lakers' season anything but abysmal would be giving first-year head coach Byron Scott undeserved credit. A 1-8 record was the franchise's worst since 1957. They're second to last in points allowed. Only Minnesota's .561 opponent field goal percentage is worse among Western Conference teams, and only the Timberwolves carry a less desirable point differential.
The two victories Lin referred to were over Atlanta and Houston, respectively. They were anomalies in a season that all but assures Los Angeles a top five lottery pick (with any luck they'll receive the No. 1 pick they've previously used on Elgin Baylor, Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, and James Worthy.)
Still, the wins represent Lin's Jekyll and Hyde-like play when adjusting to a new team. One day he'll put up 10 assists, the next Lin scrapes together four while shooting .200 from the floor. The Lakers have to take the ups with the downs, much like Houston did the last two years, and New York before that. Lin's inconsistencies have always been indicative of that.
Lin salvaged the Knicks' 2011-12 season by leading them to a seven-game winning streak following his career-high 25 point effort against New Jersey on Feb. 4. The Harvard graduate averaged 21 points, 8.7 assists, and 2.2 steals in his first month with significant playing time, becoming the first player in NBA history to post at least 20 PPG and 7 APG in his first four starts.
Wins over the Lakers, Mavericks, and Pacers followed. Amar'e Stoudemire and Baron Davis' injuries were a blessing in disguise; "Linsanity" was taking New York to the playoffs, though they would have to proceed without Lin's spark.
A small meniscus tear in his left knee forced Lin to miss the Knicks' final 17 regular season games and their entire postseason series against Miami. New York's most popular player since Patrick Ewing was given a pass that offseason despite the team's adamant promise to match any other offer.
Houston gambled on Lin and it looked like a smart move for a while. He posted three double-doubles and averaged 6.3 assists through November 2012 mainly by dishing the ball to MVP candidate James Harden. Harden, like Carmelo Anthony, was the franchise cornerstone. Lin was simply a role player. The difference between Lin's performances in the two cities coincided with his confidence around superstar talent.
When Dwight Howard signed with the Rockets the following summer, Lin's role went from being a dependable starter to bench player to afterthought. He split starting time with Patrick Beverly and still managed 15.3 PPG through November. That nearly a five-point increase from the same point the year prior.
Lin missed most of December and fell into a slump after the All-Star break. By the time recurring back problems issues started taking a toll, Lin had already seen his field goal percentage dip by .053, assists decrease by one, and points by two per game. Harden and Howard were usurping Lin's scoring chances.
Now in LA...
Houston moved Lin to open up cap space for Chris Bosh. In Los Angeles, Lin prepared to play second-fiddle to another perennial scorer in Kobe Bryant. The upside here is that there would be no Anthony-Stoudemire or Howard-Harden duo. The Lakers were in rebuilding more, though no one would ever admit it, giving Lin a perfect opportunity to inspire a new "Linsanity" movement.
Only he hasn't.
Lin's on pace for career highs in field goal and free throw percentage, but the box score won't show much beyond that. He'll play a strong first half before falling into obscurity late. In 18 games, Lin has twice as many field goal attempts in the first quarter as he does in the fourth. His shooting percentage dips to .240 in that span.
The problem isn't that Lin is incapable of running the offense (his leadership is what carried the Knicks and Rockets when their stars were either injured or slumping.) It's that he's Bryant's doormat during crunch time.
"You have to be able to assert yourself, especially on a team that I'm playing on-especially on a team I'm playing on," Bryant said in an interview with ESPN. "Because I don't want chumps, I don't want pushovers, and if you're a chump and a pushover, I will run over you."
Lin's Stats as of Late
It looks like Lin took the message to heart. He's averaging 11 shots per game since Nov. 21, with a majority coming from three-point land. Double-digit scoring nights have come six times in a row now. The Lakers are 2-4 in that time but Lin is taking on a more prominent role.
Lin's coasted through Novembers' past. To extend that success past the holidays, he'll need to challenge Bryant. Drive the lane rather than passing into double coverage. Hit an open shot instead of waiting for Bryant to get open. Bryant is not different than Anthony. They're unabashed shooters who take any and every opportunity given. Lin succeeded despite Anthony. Who's to say he can do so again?
To survive, Lin has to adapt.
"Spiritually, I've really been challenged to seek humility even more each day. When life is tough, it forces me to re-evaluate everything and to depend on God more than I initially think I need to," Lin wrote.
The first month of the season gave a glimmer into Lin's potential; much like it initially did in New York and Houston. Life as a Laker may be tough for Lin, but he has more upside than ever.
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